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Lovechildren: the backless Elisalotte

One of our favourite things about our patterns, is how well they seem to mix and match together. We're not the only ones to have figured this out - there's already been proud news of many a BHL Lovechild born in Blogville - have you seen Roisin's Anna-Charlotte hybrid? Sew Busy Lizzy's african print Elisalex-Charlotte mash-up? So in the build up to the Holiday Season, we thought we'd share some of the great ones we'd spotted out in the wild and most importantly, how to recreate them!

First up, the Elisalotte - Elisalex Dress bodice meets the Charlotte Skirt...

Elisalotte - By Hand London

What you need:

  • The Elisalex Dress pattern, bodice pieces only (traced, cut and ready to go)
  • The Charlotte Skirt pattern (traced, cut and ready to go)
  • Pens, ruler, various stationery of your selection (who doesn't love stationery?!)
  • Fabric and all the usual dressmaking tools (please see the back of your pattern folder for a full list)

So pattern hybrids are pretty straightforward, right? Just stick the bodice of one to the skirt of another and hey presto, you've made yourself a Lovechild? In theory, yes. But in practise, there are a few key factors to consider before you go ahead and hack up your fabric:

  • How much ease do each of the two patterns to be mashed-up include? We need to make sure that we can make the two patterns fit at the waistline.
  • Do the construction seams of the bodice match those of the skirt, for example, do the bodice's princess seams match the skirt's darts? Do the side seams match up? In this post we'll be showing you how to move darts and add/shave a little from the side seams.
  • Where is the zipper (or other form of entry) positioned on each pattern? You'll make your life a lot easier if it's the same on both patterns. For this lovechild, the zipper on both the Elisalex Dress and the Charlotte Skirt is at centre back.
  • Does each pattern differ wildly in recommended fabrics? Or will you be getting a great result out of each pattern made up in the same fabric? A good example of a mash-up that will be tricky to pull off is the Anna Dress bodice with the Elisalex Dress skirt (but by all means not impossible - check out Sabine's AnnaLex right here!) - to achieve the structured tulip skirt with its crispy box pleats required for the skirt on the Elisalex Dress, you need a fairly heavy weight fabric. Now imagine the floaty, drapey quality of the kimono bodiced Anna Dress, and it's easy to see that these two would not marry well in the form of a dress. However, turn the Anna bodice into a silky blouse (adding length to the torso), tuck it into a stiff brocade Elisalex skirt and you've got yourself a whole new dimension of hybrid separates!

Matching up the princess seams to the darts:

First of all, you want to mark out the seam allowance at the princess seams of both front and back bodice pieces. Now, if you place your bodice centre front piece and skirt centre front piece, aligned at the centre front "cut on fold" line, you'll see that the bodice's princess seam does not match the skirt's innermost dart:

Elisalotte - By Hand LondonTo remedy this so that the seam lines and dart lines match up perfectly once the dress is assembled, we're going to move the darts on the skirt to the right so that they match. This may sound all technical and complicated, but actually, it's ridiculously easy.

  • Keeping your bodice and skirt pieces aligned at the centre front, measure the gap between the start of the first dart and the seam allowance line of the princess seam:

Elisalotte - By Hand London


  • As you can see, we need to move the darts over by 13mm here. Simply measure 13mm across to the right from the top of each dart, and 13mm across from the bottom points of each dart. Mark these new points with a dot. Connect your dots to mark out your new darts:

Elisalotte - By Hand London

  • Repeat this process for the darts on the skirt's back piece.

Now that we've moved the darts, the only thing left to check is that the bodice and skirt match at the side seams. The easiest way to do this is by measuring the pattern paper along the waistline on both bodice and skirt pieces to see if they match, and if not, figuring out what that difference is. Here are some tips for measuring the waistline:

  • Mark out the seam allowance along the waistline and measure this line, not the raw edge of the paper.
  • Remember to leave out the darts when you measure - they will be all sewn up so don't count!
  • Only measure up to the seam allowance line on your princess seams on both the centre front and back pieces, and the front and back side panels.

We found that the waistline of the bodice was 1cm wider than that of the skirt. At this point, it's really up to you as to how to proceed - either you shave the difference off the bodice's side seams, or you add the difference to the skirt's side seams. We opted for the latter.

Making the Elisalex bodice backless:

To make the Elisalex Dress bodice backless, it really is as simple as re-drawing the neckline on the bodice centre back piece like this:

Backless Elisalex Dress tutorial - By Hand London

There are of course, a few things to consider:

  • Re-drawing the back neckline so that it is curved (as shown), as opposed to straight (like a deep V), will reduce the likelihood of gapage.
  • Bear in mind that you need to leave two lots of seam allowance as you come down to the waistline: 5/8" for the waistline seam, and 5/8" to stitch the lining at the neckline.
  • If your girls are larger than a C cup, you'll probably need some kind of backless breast support system to replace your usual bra.

Now that you've made the necessary adjustments to your darts, side seam and back neckline, it's all systems go! Assemble your bodice and skirt as normal, and then join at the waistline. If you've gone backless, you'll need a 9" invisible zipper versus the 16" invisible zipper you'll need if you've left the bodice back as is.

Elisalotte - By Hand London

Don't forget, you'll always have access to our Charlotte Skirt Sewalong and our Elisalex Dress Sewalong for extra support during the making process, plus we're always on hand to advise you further - just holla on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we'll do our best to help. And last but not least, please share your creations with us so we can swoon over what you've made!




Comments on this post (2)

  • Sep 28, 2014

    Hello Elisalex/ByHandLondon ladies. I am planning a backless Elisalex with a half circle skirt for a wedding. I have made up a toile and it gapes a lot at the back of the neckline. Pinning in a dart either side (near the lower back) of the toile fixes the problem. Creating darts and stabilising the neckline with twill tape is the only solution I can think of? Any expertise would be much appreciated……

    Thank you for the amazing patterns!


    — Vicki

  • Aug 26, 2014

    Wow, am a bit late to the By Hand party, have just started my first Elizalex, it’s my second ever dress, and the pattern is sooo clear and easy to follow, love this pattern hack! very Vivienne Westwood! – have ordered the Charlotte skirt so I can have a go – thanks for the inspiration ladies – now I just have to go and find me some tartan

    — alison

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